Tag Archive: james canfield

Tomorrow’s the big day! NBT will be joined in concert by Pacific Northwest Ballet principals Carla Korbes and Seth Orza and American Ballet Theater’s Herman Cornejo in celebration of NBT’s 40th year and its debut at the Smith Center. Pop musician Matt Goss will be accompanying a new work by Canfield to top off the evening.

“Red Angels,” a work by Ulysses Dove, is on the docket (PNB soloists Lucien Postlewaite and Sarah Ricard Orza will join in for that one), as is the infamous “Serenade” by George Balanchine. On KNPR’s “State of Nevada” program this morning, Canfield and Boal spoke of the Balanchine with a kind of reverence, and they both acknowledging the almost religious feeling that accompanies the number. Pair that with NBT dancers and live music and you’re good to go.

If this tease isn’t quite enough for you, drop by the KNPR website to listen to the full story. The concert is tomorrow, May 5, at 7 p.m. at the Smith Center. Tickets range from $43-$128 and can be purchased online or by calling 702-749-2000.


Nevada Ballet Theatre crowned its year of milestones on Dec. 17-24 with a version of the “Nutcracker” that was a sweet sip of tradition and contemporary creativity. This year, the company turned 40, the “Nutcracker” tradition turned 30 and this year marked NBT’s third year performing at Paris Las Vegas. Don’t let the long history fool you, though. Artistic director James Canfield’s partnerships with choreographers like Ballet Idaho’s Peter Anastos contributes to the progressive feel of classic works like “The Nutcracker.”

Anastos was the choreographic brain behind this year’s production and his whimsical movement, while not vintage “Nutcracker,” somehow suited the Las Vegas aura. Holly Madison of “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood also had a brief cameo in a matinee performance. Balletomanes might be cringing, but it’s hard to argue with something that makes a classical ballet more approachable to a wide audience.

As a whole, the ballet fit the bill as a sugary-sweet holiday confection. Warm pantomime set the scene in the first act, with children carrying garlands and gifts madly dashing around decked-out adults. An air of geniality mantled the party scene and the exuberant academy students lent a rosy glow.

Marcus Bugler as Herr Drosselmeyer was wisely cast; his effervescent animation of the magician was infectious as he ushered the children and the plot along. Josue Calderon and Betsy Lucas as Fritz and Clara, respectively, embodied bubbly excitement admirably. The brief pas de deux between Clara and Preston Swovelin’s Nutcracker Doll in the first act was delightfully sweet and sincere.

Leigh Hartley’s Ballerina Doll would have been the perfect object of a young girl’s affection, blowing kisses and tottering about. The Mouse Doll, danced by Ariel Triunfo, was spunky and precise, eliciting laughs from the audience in short order. The battle scene, populated as it was by munchkins in mice costumes, continued the adorable ambience.

The Snow King and Queen, danced by Grigori Arakelyan and Leigh Hartley, amplified the dreamlike nature of Anastos’ choreography. Hartley’s airy suspension suited the role, although the multitude of partnered penches left the audience with an inkling that Hartley could do more — with one of her exemplary side extensions, perhaps. Nonetheless, the delicately falling snow was another Las Vegas Easter egg and the frosty royalty, accompanied by flurries of Snowflakes, concluded the first act well.

The Kingdom of Sweets, enchanting as it is, was further exemplified by Anastos’ playful choreography. Sarah Fuhrman’s pert Sugarplum and Amy Von Handorf’s Arabian variation stood out as especially fresh, and Jeremy Bannon-Neches as a grandiose Cavalier was a strong complement. While purists might dispute the contemporary riffs, the modifications were refreshing for a ballet with such tenure. Zachary Hartley was outstanding in an unorthodox, one-man Russian variation, wowing the audience with robust displays of double fans, coffee grinders and high-flying leaps.

Alissa Dale’s Dewdrop Fairy flounced delicately with a company of flowers in the iconic waltz, the length of which was offset by the activity that remained at a nice simmer. The Spanish chocolate was full of spice and sass and the reed flutes number was a gilded and candy-sweet affair. The bright and chipper Chinese tea number and NBT’s signature saltwater taffy sailors rounded out the act in fanciful style.

Overall, NBT and Peter Anastos seem to be a good match. Perhaps the biggest tragedy in the show was the lack of live music, especially in a city that is full of more-than qualified musicians.

Beyond the holidays, though, Canfield’s willingness to experiment bodes well for a company that will soon have large slippers to fill. In May, the company will be stepping into a theater at the Smith Center that will seat more than 2,000 people, which is a daunting prospect for any regional company. However, NBT seems well positioned to make this transition, and being backed by the Las Vegas Philharmonic (also at the Smith Center) likely won’t hurt either.

Penny Saunders and Pablo Piantino of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago perform Jiri Kylian's "Petite Mort." Photo by Todd Rosenberg

It’s Nevada Ballet Theatre’s 40th season this year and the company is joining hands with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to kick it of properly. “Dance Dance Dance!” opens at Paris Las Vegas on Oct. 29 and 30 and will include George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco, Jirí Kylián’s”Petite Mort,” Sharon Eyal’s and Gaï Behar’s “Too Beaucoup” and James Canfield’s “Up” and “Cinq Gnossiennes.”

For single tickets to “Dance Dance Dance!,” give the Paris Theatre Box Office a ring at 702-946-4567 or click here. Catch the show on Oct. 29 at 8 p.m. or Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. An opening night special offer is available; $40 buys a ticket to the Oct. 29 show and a front-of-the-line, no-cover pass to Chateau Nightclub and Gardens. Click here for the moolah-saving details.

But (and I’m risking sounding like a used car salesman here, but bear with me) that’s not all! Hubbard Street artistic director Glenn Edgerton will teach a professional-level master class from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Oct. 27 at NBT’s Summerlin studios. $75 nets the master class and a ticket to “Dance Dance Dance!” on Oct. 29 at 8 p.m. or Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. Walk-up registration is available the day of the class for $50, but space is limited. To save a spot, call 702-243-2623 to register.

Company members from Nevada Ballet Theatre are stepping into the role of choreography to explore the artistic potential of fairytale worlds. “Beyond Words and Text” is an endeavor into the unexpected and, largely, the unexplored. While “Sleeping Beauty” is a ballet classic, there is hardly a Tchaikovsky version of “The Scarlet Letter.” NBT is changing that, one variation at a time.

Artistic director James Canfield introduced the project at the top of the show, saying that the choreographers were given specific parameters within which to operate. Each chose a fairytale, fable or work of literature to explore through dance and fellow company members performed the variations at NBT’s Summerlin studio.

One of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of the show was at the end of each piece, when the choreographer would explain why they chose the story they did and what their artistic objective was. In the performance I saw last week, choreographers Jeremy Bannon-Neches, Kalin Morrow, Sarah Fuhrman, Anthony Paparelli and Barrington Lohr were insightful and verbose and it was obvious that they had researched and examined the ideas behind the pieces they were creating.

The results were wonderful. Bannon-Neches drew in literature right away with “Amadeus,” based on the rivalry between composers Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The piece was literal but not pandering and the characters established by the dancers were easy to relate to, giving the number the potential to educate without alienating.

Fuhrman also adopted an erudite air with an aggressive, intense vignette on “The Scarlet Letter.” The movement was as expansive emotionally as it was physically and added considerable excitement to the tale normally relegated to the dismal realm of “required reading.” Music played a role in this also, shifting from a movie-score feel to Gary Jules’ “Mad World.” Choices like this speckled the show with a contemporary sheen and made classical ballet more accessible to those unfamiliar with it.

Morrow, Paparelli and Lohr gravitated in another direction, each choosing a story that most children are familiar with beginning at an early age. “The Jungle Book,” a modern-tainted, earthy feeling variation by Lohr, closed the show with a delicate ferocity that would have given Disney’s “The Lion King” a run for its money. Paparelli ambitiously recreated a scene from “Sleeping Beauty,” reinvented with a panther-like Maleficent and sensual fairies. Seeing classically trained dancers performing such contemporary movement was a welcome treat the performers’ mature presence only added to this.

“The Red Balloon” was the subject of Morrow’s choreographic musings. Precise choreography twined around the dancers while a helium-filled balloon bobbed along, the happy companion to a lonely child. Although the original story ends on a light-hearted note, Morrow said she decided to linger on the moment when the balloon is popped and the boy faces the difficulties of growing up. There is bravery in such an ending and the piece certainly benefited from it.

Canfield spoke briefly about the potential these variations have as new full-length works and the performance possibilities afforded by the Smith Center, slated to open in 2012. Mostly, though, Canfield played the part of the overjoyed parent, chastising dancers for their modesty and happily listing accomplishments of individual performers and the company as a whole. “I am so proud that we have such strong voices in choreography,” he said at the beginning of the concert. “It is our responsibility to keep those alive.”

“Beyond Words and Text” is running on select days of the week until April 17, with one of two separate programs being performed. (There are nine variations; each show will include four or five of them.) For tickets and additional information, visit NBT’s website here.

Nevada Ballet Theatre, alongside dancers from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, produced “The Tried and True and the New” on March 4, 5 and 6 at Artemus W. Ham Hall. True to its name, the concert included original works by George Balanchine, enthralling modern dance classics and the world premiere of an arresting new ballet by James Canfield.

Timeless choreography to Gaetano Donizetti’s “Variations” was an auspicious start to the performance. The company, clad in in pastel pinks and magentas, executed the demanding steps well and did justice to the notorious (and sometimes notoriously nasty) choreography of Balanchine. Although changements en pointe are not enjoyable things to execute, Allisa Dale managed to perform them not only proficiently but gleefully, which is a feat in and of itself. Grigori Arakelyan pulled off the same trick with traveling pirouettes, consecutive tours and the like. They are difficult steps, and the audience knows it. The artistry comes in when the dancers can perform them effortlessly.

The corps was captivating in its cohesiveness, lending the intricate choreography a sense of stability but remaining interesting throughout the piece. Musicality was undeniable; several sections showcased counterpoints, with one group placing an accent on the downbeat and another group doing the same on an upbeat. Too often, the results of this are muddy and incoherent. In this case, this was sleight of hand at its finest: it surprised the audience and was neatly concluded before spectators had fully come to grips with what had just happened. The effect was delightful.

The straightforward unison sections were another high point in the variations. Watching Dale step gallantly in front of a corps of polished ballerinas executing nit-picky steps in sync was a thrilling and revitalizing experience, and one that is not easily accomplished. This also justifies the longevity and persistence of Balanchine’s work.

“A Song For You,” choreographed by Alvin Ailey and danced by Matthew Rushing, followed “Variations” and was both a shift and a continuation. Horton may not be classical ballet, but the presence, control and quality of movement remained the same. The modern energy, underscored by dramatic lighting changes, brought dimension to the show from the beginning and left the audience ready to clap at a moment’s notice. Rushing obliged with attenuated lines and committed stillness, completing the number with a bow of undeniable sincerity.

In the second act, NBT divested itself of classical sensibilities and followed through with Rushing’s trajectory. “Still,” accompanied by live music and choreographed by NBT’s Canfield, was an unpredictable foray into a world that was intriguing in its strangeness. Mary LaCroix, who partnered with Arakelyan, seemed to be enamored with the experience herself, maturely escorting onlookers through this foreign, unfamiliar thing. Arakelyan was strong and understated in the pas de deux work, which was utterly contemporary. The tasteful lighting, almost Victorian set and fabulously embellished music completed the emprise.

Rushing joined Clifton Brown, also of Alvin Ailey, for a duet from “Concerto Six Twenty-Two,” choreographed by Lar Lubovitch and performed to a track by Wolfgang Mozart. The men mirrored each other with incredibly synchronization for much of the piece, synthesizing a tranquillity that could hardly have been more pleasant. The white costuming was classic Ailey and the blue wash of the lighting created an ethereal, spectral quality. Nearly flawless technique was the cherry on top.

“At the Border,” the final piece, was a crown jewel set in a concert of differences. The number was choreographed by Matthew Neenan and was an NBT company premier in this performance series (it was originally performed by Pennsylvania Ballet.) This represents a propitious step for the company for a number of reasons. The piece was made possible by the Jerome Robbins Foundation as part of the New Essential Works (NEW) program through the same, which gives second-tier companies a chance to develop and perform works of exceptional quality. (Canfield acknowledged this graciously during intermission, expressing gratitude to NEW program director Damian Woetzel.)

Forget the Balanchine. As a company, NBT absolutely sparkled in “At the Border,” filling a bare stage with insouciant energy, arcing jumps and far-flung limbs. Vitality radiated from the red- and blue-clad dancers and proved that, while they are fully capable of Balanchine classics, perhaps a contemporary groove is more fitting. Athleticism stood stoically beside technique and showcased the group at its finest.

For more information about Nevada Ballet Theatre and upcoming performances, check out their website here. Find an article on the Jerome Robbins Foundation’s NEW program here.

For anyone else out there who emboites in the other direction at the first sign of sports equipment projectiles, don’t worry: March still brings plenty to celebrate, er, madly. The Academy Awards, which took place over the weekend, celebrated the nomination of “Black Swan” for several categories, including best picture. Natalie Portman, psychotic ballerina extraordinaire, snagged the statuette for best actress through her role in the film and, thankfully, showed no signs of sprouting wings.

On an entirely unrelated but similarly excellent note, a new kind of game is coming to Las Vegas, and it’s beginning with a bang tonight. Nomi Malone and Miss Miranda Glamour will be hosting “Burlesque: the Game Show” at FREEZONE, a couple blocks south of Hard Rock Hotel. Renea’ Le Roux and Lou-Lou Roxy will be making guest appearances and ladies can get discounts on drinks from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. For a night of burlesque and unpredictability, hit up FREEZONE at 610 E. Naples Drive at 10:30 p.m.

For the more classic at heart, Nevada Ballet Theatre will be performing “The Tried and True and the New” at 8 p.m. on March 4, 5 and 6 at UNLV’s Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall. Guest artists from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will make an appearance and choreography by George Balanchine, James Canfield and Matthew Neenan will be featured. Tickets are selling quickly, so head over here to buy yours.

For those of you that can’t bear the thought of an entirely sports-bereft March, Face Productions is organizing a show on Fremont Street that should be a good compromise. The month-long production features sassy performers with pom-pom expertise and vixens dancing to Beyonce tracks, both appropriate for the ultimate halftime show experience.

Do you know of any mad events going on that should be featured here? Leave a comment below and let me know. Otherwise, get some pep in your step and gear up for a month full of burlesque, ballet and, if you insist, basketball.

The Vegas Nutcracker season was wrapped up and topped with a bow by NBT’s rendition, performed at the Paris Las Vegas Theatre from Dec. 17 to 26.  The ballet was choreographed by Peter Anastos and displayed a commendable balance of visual razzle-dazzle and simplicity in its production and choreography. The company, under the artistic direction of James Canfield, was well-polished and the students, from the Nevada Ballet Theatre Academy, did a very respectable job.

Anastos’ choreography contributed a revitalizing energy to a show that has been performed by NBT for 29 years. The production quality, from lighting  (by Nicholas Cavallaro, executed by Peter Jakubowski) to costuming and sets by A. Christina Giannini, was excellent. The theatrical nature demanded by Peter Tchaikovsky’s iconic score was beautifully presented in the dramatic red, black and gold theater.

For those already familiar with the story of Clara and her beloved nutcracker doll, there were few surprises. The story began with Clara (Leigh Hartley) and her brother Fritz (Benjamin Blomquist and Gene Mesheryakov) joining their parents for a festive party in honor of the season. Children and adults alike danced in turn, with both groups embodying the rosy-cheeked holiday spirit.

NBT’s version featured several notable sections in the party scene. The children performed a garland dance, May-pole style, in the middle, and their sliding chasses were a credit to their training. Spirited characters like Clara’s grandparents (Jamey Gallagher and Tara Foy) added a good measure of humor.

Drosselmeyer (Marcus Bugler), the magician that presented Clara and the other children with the nutcracker doll (Griffin Whiting) mechanical mouse (Aimee Schleimer and Ariel Triunfo) and ballerina doll (Betsy Lucas and Kelly Callahan), was properly dramatic and set the magical aspect of the story into motion.

After the battle scene between the Mouse King (Anthony Paparelli), white mice (played by children and an NBT addition to the original) and the Nutcracker Prince, the prince took Clara on a journey to the Kingdom of Snow and the Land of the Sweets.

This is where the meaty dancing comes in. Fierce snowflakes in the Kingdom of Snow, coupled with the commanding presence of the Snow King and Queen (Jeremy Bannon-Neches and Sarah Fuhrman), did justice to Anastos’ regal and flurry-ful choreography. Strong technique was evident in seamless  turns and extension, fluid partnering and Bannon-Neches’ grand pirouettes. The “snow” falling onto the dancers was a nice theatrical touch.

Fog and the demur bourreeing of angels en pointe heralded Clara and Co.’s arrival in the Land of the Sweets. Alissa Dale’s Sugar Plum Fairy, with neat footwork and elastic port de bras,  shimmered in an iridescent purple tutu. With her Cavalier (Grigori Arakelyan) beside her, she introduced the rest of the delectable treats heralding from the Land of the Sweets.

Each of the national dances was distinct, lending (if you will kindly pardon the pun) unique flavors with each variation. Another sweet addition came with the miniature corps, small both in terms of size and in terms of stature: Young ballet students constituted a supporting cast for each of their full-sized counterparts, scuttling around as travel-sized Spanish chocolate, French marzipan and the like.

The second act also featured some NBT innovations that made nice addenda to the original. Pint-sized bakers assembled a three-tiered cake and salt water taffy sailors bounced buoyantly with aquatic-themed props.

The Dewdrop Fairy (Krista Baker) and her company of flowers glimmered as a high point in the act. The dancers were clad in flouncing romantic tutus in a pink gradient and looked appropriately like gumdrops, albeit graceful ones, with spidery limbs. Developes en menage, coupled with the skirts, created a particularly striking visual and Baker’s controlled suspension and pristine fouette turns were not to be discounted.

The grand pas de deux that led into the finale of the show was a revitalizing, candy-coated affair. Anastos’ choreography entailed a good measure of both solo sections and unison, allowing the audience to see the individual personalities of the variations before wrapping the entire thing up neatly. Dale’s Sugar Plum, backed by her Arakelyan Cavalier, again directed the proceedings. With a partnered quadruple pirouette to a picturesque arabesque, she was the beautiful bow on top.